The Rebel Media founder spoke to a small handful of young conservative men at Ryerson University
Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant opened his speech at Ryerson University on Wednesday with a direct and highly personal attack against me.
Before the event even started, he told me I was an “anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew,” and “a piece of shit on the sidewalk. I wipe my shoes with you.”
At the podium, Levant wasted no time. He immediately singled me out, telling the crowd of about 40 people that I was “an anti-Semite, a Holocaust trivializer, vestigially Jewish,” and “a self-loathing Jew.”
Organized by Campus Conservatives, the event was described as a discussion of “campus culture and Israel and the Middle East.”
With regard to anti-Semitism, Levant is currently facing criticism after one of his own Rebel Media contributors, Gavin McInnes, made a video called “10 Things I Hate About Jews.”
Levant took issue with my Torontoist video coverage of the Rebel Media’s rally last month at Canada Christian College.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in the Sears Atrium at Ryerson’s George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, but it was moved to the Mattamy Athletic Centre because of security concerns just hours before.
Levant has been leading a chorus of vehement opposition to M-103, a federal government motion to condemn Islamophobia, which passed in the House of Commons today. He says it will lead to widespread government-imposed censorship and will target his followers. “It’s not me they’re going to shut up, [but] they’ll try.”
“Hate is a human emotion … can you hate Islam? How can you look at 9/11 and not feel any sort of hatred?” asked Levant.
“To say hate speech is somehow unlawful simply because you have a feeling in your heart when you say certain words doesn’t even make any sense.”
Meanwhile, inside a few protesters stood up, interrupting Levant’s speech, chanting, “No Islamophobia, no white supremacy!” to which Levant chanted back, “Don’t shut down a Jew!”
That’s when Levant stepped down from the podium and confronted the protestors, surrounded by his screaming supporters until the demonstrators were forced out of the room.
After the event, I spoke with protester Jamie Sweeney, who held a sign reading, “My Judaism Rejects Israeli Apartheid and Ezra Levant.”
Sweeney criticized the Campus Conservatives for “giving a platform for malicious hate and bigotry” and added that “Ezra needs to understand that Jews are not homogenous ,and we should stand up for racial justice because we of all people should know the impacts of bigotry, discrimination, and violence.”
“Ryerson doesn’t protect its students” said fourth-year politics major Vajdaan Tanveer. “There is a line between free speech and hate speech. We don’t have to always agree, but it’s often these ideas from Levant that are then used to hurt people.”
“Rebel Media and Ezra Levant are giving a platform for Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views,” said Orion Keresztesi, who works for CESAR, a Ryerson students’ union on campus, was also protesting the event. “A university that claims to be progressive shouldn’t be giving a platform for these folks.”
When asked for an interview, Ryerson Campus Conservatives’ president Nikita Drakokhrust said, “I don’t do interviews, sorry.” He later gave an on-camera interview to The Rebel.
But one member of Campus Conservatives did speak to Torontoist. Marshal Darbyshire said, “I would like to see a cultural shift on campus that has a more non-partisan approach that doesn’t favour Marxist ideas over non-Marxist ideas.”
Darbyshire defended the recent controversial comments made by the Rebel’s McInnes: “I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with it. Again, it’s the free speech thing. It’s our job to [protect it] instead of having it shut down through the university or legislation.”
Student journalists from Ryerson newspaper The Eyeopener were denied entry to the event. Darbyshire refused entry to Eyeopener news editor Alanna Rizza, she said, and told her it was “because I don’t like you.”
Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy got a comment in during the Q-and-A portion; she took the opportunity to congratulate Levant and express her support.
Levant then unleashed one last attack on me.
“Listen, I’m having a lot of fun with Zach ’cause he’s so gross, but most Jews are not that extreme in their self-loathing. But it’s true, Sue-Ann, a lot of Jews think Jewishness is sort of like a weak affiliation . . . I think it’s a desire to hit the snooze button on the alarm. I think we’re in an alarm. I think the alarm goes off pretty much every week now. It went off today in Westminster in London, but it’s easier to hit the alarm.”